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Nevada Chief Medical Examiner Must Assure Prisoners Receive Healthful Diet

The Nevada Supreme Court held a prisoner was entitled to the grant of a writ of mandamus to compel the Nevada's Chief Medical Officer to periodically examine and semi-annually report to the Board of State Prison Commissioners Board regarding the nutritional adequacy of the diet of prisoners.

Prisoner Robert Stockmeier sought mandamus and injunctive relief to compel Tracy Green, in her capacity as the Chief Medical Officer for the State of Nevada, to comply with NRS 209.382(1)(b). The district court denied the petition and an appeal ensued.

The appeal resulted in the Nevada Supreme Court reversing the denial with instructions to require Green to submit evidence to support her position that she was fulfilling her duty. On remand, she presented a report submitted to the board in 2011 and minutes from a December 2011 Board meeting where she informed she had found no nutritional deficiencies in her inspection of prisoner diets. The district court again denied the petition and another appeal ensued.

The Nevada Supreme Court pointed out that NRS 209.382(1) requires each prisoner be provided a “healthful diet.” Section (1)(b) requires the Chief Medical Officer “periodically examine” and report on a semi-annual basis to the board regarding the “nutritional adequacy of the diet of incarcerated offenders taking into account the religious or medical dietary needs of an offender and the adjustment of dietary allowances for age, sex, and level of activity.” Section (2) provides, “The Board shall take appropriate action to remedy and (reported] deficiencies.”

The court found Green's report demonstrates her failure to comply with the law. The “report primarily focuses on issues other than inmate diets, and the limited materials included in the report regarding this subject provide no information on, or analysis of, the nutritional adequacy of general population diets.” The report suggests a “menu-based review.”

The menu contained no nutritional value of the items being offered; in some instances, it did not even describe the type of food being offered. Each lunch entry states merely “Sacks.” Certain dinner offerings were described as “Chef’s Choice.”

The court rejected Green's position that documenting the fact prisoners are not malnourished was enough to fulfill her duty. While the statute provides the Chief Medical Officer broad discretion, “Green must do something more than merely look for signs of malnutrition or vitamin deficiency in the inmates in order to comply with the requirements imposed by that statute.”

Accordingly, the Court held Stockmeier was entitled to be granted a writ of mandamus “ordering Green to comply with the requirements of NRS 209.382(1)(b) in line with the [Court's] opinion.” See: Stockmeier v. Green, 340 P.3d 583 (Nev. 2014).

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Related legal case

Stockmeier v. Green